This lecture celebrated the launch of 100 Great Geosites, to coincide with Earth Science Week 2014.
Britain and Ireland have a unique variety of geology, manifest in spectacular outcrops and diverse landscapes. Some have been fundamental to the development of geology as a science – telling stories of scientific discovery and the deduction of Earth processes. Even after centuries of endeavour, our outcrops still inspire fundamental new research. And they continue to act both as invaluable classrooms for students and as shop-windows for our science at large.
Generations of professional geologists have been trained in spectacular settings such as SW Wales, Assynt and Arran. Our outcrops, such as the sea-cliffs of County Clare, Dorset and Yorkshire remain a critical resource for professional training – providing insights into the types of structures, their forms and complexities, that host resources.
Our outcrop classrooms may be on our doorstep, but we apply the lessons learnt to examples all over the World. Few other sciences have the benefit of a shop window, accessible to all. Thousands of people have been inspired to find more out about Earth Science from first encounters in front of rocks and geological landscapes in the field or a museum. Many have made it the centre of their lives.
But the outcrop heritage is under threat – not only by the march of developers but by insensitive environmental protection and ecological restoration. More disturbingly, some professional geologists are destroying sites by unethical sampling, especially by rock coring. More needs to be done to raise awareness, and to increase the statutory protections and to clear the backlog in the designation of Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
This lavishly-illustrated talk coincided with Earth Science Week and the Society’s announcement of the result from its 100 Great Geosites project – designed to showcase great outcrops, inspirational places, and some of the geology that underpins our cities and great engineering projects. Together we celebrated the wealth of stunning geology in our islands, telling stories of scientific discovery, controversies and its role today.
Rob Butler (University of Aberdeen)
Rob Butler is an enthusiast for field geology. He is best known for his research in structural geology, especially of thrust belts and mountain systems in general. Rob's 30 year career began in the NW Highlands of Scotland and has since spread to the Western Alps, Apennines, Himalayas and New Zealand, with stop-overs in Lebanon, Oman and other parts of the Mediterranean. He has lectured widely on these aspects to public audiences and was featured on BBC’s Men of Rock series that explored Britain’s geo-heritage.
Rob holds the Chair in Tectonics at the University of Aberdeen, a post he has held since 2008. His earlier career took him through the University of Durham, the Open University and the University of Leeds. He is chair of the Society’s Geoconservation Committee and a passionate advocate for using outcrop geology to convey stories of Earth processes.